We then made our way to Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. There was construction being done on the buildings which was non ideal for pictures but I have plenty of time to come back and see them again, though not likely with such nice weather. I also totally thought the Parliament building was Westminster Abbey which was a little embarrassing.
After visiting my school, we wandered off to do some sightseeing. We stumbled upon Trafalgar Square which was pretty and crowded. I climbed onto the base of the obelisk to take a picture which was fun. Then we headed off through a park and found 10 Downing St, the residence of the Prime Minister. Understandably, we weren't allowed close to it so there was just a giant group of tourists taking pictures of the street sign.
On our way to the Waterloo campus to get my ID card, had to take a picture with an iconic red telephone booth. They're everywhere throughout London even if they don't seem to be used much at all except for as a photo op. After getting my ID card, we headed across the river Thames to Somerset House and the Strand campus where I will be taking my classes. The river is wide and muddy and lined with pretty and historic looking buildings. Getting into the Strand campus requires that I wear my ID card at all times and I had to sign Mom in at the reception. It seems that they are still on high security alert after the terror attacks earlier this year.
11 September 2017
Arrival in London. I took the Tube from the airport to Elephant & Castle then walked to my dorm. Great Dover Street Apartments looks great from the outside but my room is kind of small though totally sufficient for one person. I have a private bathroom that is a wet room (the shower is right on top of the toilet and the water gets everywhere). After going to Argos to buy bedding and stuff, I got to take a red bus back. When I got back I heard noises coming from the neighboring room in my flat, so I knocked and introduced myself. My new flatmate's name was Keeley and she invited me to get dinner with her and some other study abroad students she'd met. So I also met Ashton from North Carolina, Skye from Korea, and Sienna from New Zealand. They seem like potential friends and fun buddies for my semester ahead.
Went to see the subway station art in Stockholm before heading to the airport on the Arlanda Express. The platform walls were painted in this beautiful mural design, but the locals walked right past them without batting an eye. Meanwhile I was standing there admiring the walls and ceilings and generally getting in the way of people trying to get to work.
10 September 2017
Back to the Old Town. After leaving Djurgarden, I wandered back to the palace, where I walked through another random Swedish culture museum in the palace. I also happened to be in the courtyard just as the changing of the guard was about to happen. It was fairly short and mostly featured stiff marching, yelling, exaggerated turning, and a pretty exciting moment when the captain drew his sword with a flourish. Actually the funniest part was the Chinese tourists making fun of the ceremony in Chinese. Oh and the captain trying to sheathe his sword at the end of the ceremony and missing...thrice. I then headed over to the Nobel museum which featured short films about a select few Nobel laureates and their work. It was actually pretty cool learning about the lady who discovered the cure for childhood leukemia or the people who accidentally confirmed the Big Bang theory.
Skansen was a pretty cool historic reenactment of how Swedish people lived in the past. There were a bunch of costumed people doing things using the old equipment, from glassblowing to machining, from making potato flour to baking bread. It was also a mini zoo of Nordic animals; I saw a bear, moose, wolverine, reindeer, etc. It was cool and I probably could have spent more time there but there was so much walking involved and my feet were killing me.
Took the ferry to the island where the Vasa museum is. The views on the water were great especially since the clouds were dispersing and the sun was starting to peek through. The Vasa museum itself was definitely worth going to. The ship is huge and looks very grand (even though it's pathetically unseaworthy). I especially liked the exhibit that reconstructed and told the stories of those who had died when the ship sank. I just felt like everyone was making a huge deal out of a ship that failed to do its main job: stay afloat. Sure, it's grand and looks awesome but it was also a massive failure.
I had a productive morning! Caught a Mr. Mime (European exclusive Pokémon) on my way to breakfast. Went to the Greasy Spoon for breakfast, supposedly one of the best brunch places in Stockholm. By the time I got my food, the wait time was more than 20 minutes. The food itself was not really that special but the atmosphere was warm and quirky.
9 September 2017
Gamla Stan appeared to just be narrow, winding pedestrian streets lined with small shops and cafes. It looks almost like a muggle Diagon Alley. But it was on the edges of Gamla Stan that I discovered the deliciousness of European drinking chocolate. It was rich and creamy and so cute in its cup and saucer.
Visiting the King's Palace in Stockholm. What I've learned about palaces is that they must be gilded and have tapestries and gold and oil paintings everywhere. In Copenhagen, the theme seemed to be red. Here it was green. A lady I asked to take a picture for me was from California as well! I also saw the Royal Treasury which basically was a display of crowns and swords. The motif there seemed to be sparkle, embroidery, and velvet.
8 September 2017
Went biking around the city with Mom. Showed her some of the cool things I've been touring the past two days. It was awesome because it wasn't raining and we were able to take lots of pictures. Taking pictures was really hard when I was traveling alone.
Went to Copenhagen street food. It was this warehouse on an island packed with food stalls/trucks. Each stand had its own style and the result was an eclectic mix of colorful signage and culture. I got a Danish strømmebrød and a raspberry juice, which were nice but not something I would go out of my way to get again. The atmosphere was cozy though with lots of hungry people happily chatting away on the indoor picnic tables.
Today I visited Christiansborg Slot three times. First I went up the tower to see Copenhagen from above. It was super cold and windy up there, and the views were somewhat obstructed by clouds and construction but what views I could see were pretty nice. The Royal Reception Rooms were almost obnoxiously ornate and grand. Because they are still in use, we were required to wear shoe covers inside. After lunch, I came back to visit the Royal Kitchens (pretty underwhelming), the ruins of previous iterations of the castle (interesting if a bit creepy because of the lighting), and the Royal Stables (the white horses are majestic and the royal family owns so many carriages). Then I came back in the evening with Mom.
7 September 2017
The Round Tower has a wide spiral ramp going up (for horses in the old days) and shows a great view of the city. Would probably have been cooler on a clear day.
Rosenborg Castle and nearby King's garden and botanical gardens. Apparently the king used to keep his mistresses there.
The Little Mermaid and nearby star-shaped fortress and army barracks. You know it's old because the doors are tiny.
The opera house and Amalienborg Castle. The flag indicates that someone is in residence (the tour guide said it was one of the princes)
Public trampolines by the canal and Nyhavn
Christianborg Castle is home to the Danish parliament and the Royal Stables
6 September 2017
Arrived in Copenhagen. The power outlets here look like little smiley faces. :D
Layover in Helsinki airport. The gift shops also sell furry boots, clogs, smoked meats, and a lot of alcohol.